Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last week that we are returning to the prosecutor policies of the drug wars of the 1980’s-1990’s. He has authorized federal prosecutors to enforce the most severe penalties for drug violations. The drug war policies of that era contributed to the United States as the number one country having the most inmates (25%) and prisons in the world.
Attorney General Sessions and Pres. Trump are determined to reverse the policies of former Pres. Obama and former Attorney General Holder regarding justice reform. The Obama second term was concerned about our mass incarceration crisis. Pres. Obama authorized reduction of the federal inmate population as an example of prison reform.
Approximately 6,000 federal inmates, convicted of nonviolent crimes, serving excessive sentences, were released in November, 2016. Pres. Obama commuted sentences of federal inmates, who were given lengthy sentences because of controversial mandatory minimum sentencing rules. To be eligible, the inmates were required to have a good record during their imprisonment.
Sessions last week instructed his 5,000 assistant U.S. attorneys to charge defendants with offenses which had the maximum penalties. While a senator, Sessions opposed reform of the justice system.
Civil rights groups, Republican lawmakers and the conservative Koch brothers quickly criticized the policy.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky), stated, “Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated too many minorities for too long… Attorney General Sessions’ new policy will accentuate that injustice.”
The states have the same issues as the federal government in resolving our incarceration crisis. In fact, two Ohio counties illustrate the difference between Session’s–Trump and Obama–Holder’s approach to punishment and rehabilitation.
In Ohio, two young heroin addicts faced incarceration for drug addiction. Kaylee Morrison was imprisoned for four years for violating drug laws in Hardin county. Ohio taxpayers paid $100,000 for the incarceration of this 28-year-old woman who did not receive in prison the appropriate help she needed to control and manage her addiction.
At the same time, another Ohio county used a different strategy for a nonviolent drug offender. Clayton Wood, 29, was referred to the county drug court which ordered drug treatment in his community. He was allowed to work full-time. With this court decision, society did not pay the high cost of imprisoning Mr. Wood and he received treatment for his drug addiction.
Overcrowded prisons and jails are dangerous for inmates, correctional officers, and for society. Our jails and prisons are not the answer to addicted inmates.The United States has the most inmates and prisons in the world. Attorney General Session’s policies enables the United States addiction to incarceration.
By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com